Web Wealth: Before the road trip, map out best gas prices

A screen shot from www.fueleconomy.gov, a joint project from the Energy Department and EPA on all things fuelish.
A screen shot from www.fueleconomy.gov, a joint project from the Energy Department and EPA on all things fuelish.
Posted: July 22, 2013

Gasoline prices have been shooting up, and the usual motorist frustration is kicking in. Check these sites to find the cheapest gas around and to understand why prices fluctuate so wildly.

The AAA auto club publishes a detailed daily roundup of average gasoline and other motor-fuel prices nationally and state-by-state. The data come from the Oil Price Information Service, or OPIS, which supplies industry information to oil companies, distributors, and government and commercial petroleum-product buyers. A map on the AAA page shows which states have the highest and lowest prices. Under the map, you'll see links for AAA tools that will help you estimate the current cost of fuel for a road trip, map a trip, and identify the fueling stops you'd like to make along the way.

GasBuddy.com displays gasoline prices reported by users of the website and its mobile apps. The site offers "gas price heat maps" for the United States and Canada that show where prices are hot, or high, and where they are not. Zoom in for the exact locations and prices of individual gas stations whose reported prices make up the map. The smartphone apps offered by both Gasbuddy and AAA have functions for finding gasoline prices while you are on the move.

Two federal offices - the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency - are behind the fueleconomy.gov site and this page on gasoline prices. It links to all sorts of information about fuel prices, fuel efficiency, and the forces at work that determine the cost of gasoline at the pump. Click "understanding gas prices" to access the FAQ that starts with "What's going on with gas prices?" and always includes the latest weekly petroleum-market report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The site is one way to explore alternatives to gasoline-burning vehicles, including diesels, plug-ins, and vehicles that run on natural gas.

Blaming the president of the United States for high gasoline prices is as dumb as giving him credit for low prices, at least according to this entry at HowStuffWorks. World demand for fuel and unrest in the Middle East are just a couple of the factors that have more influence over gasoline prices than the current resident of the White House. In an accompanying video - dated 2008, as gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon for the first time - a Shell oil executive explains how gas stations set their prices. He says that's mostly a matter of local competition and station owners' perceptions of what the next delivery of fuel is going to cost.


Contact Reid Kanaley at rkanaley@phillynews.com, 215-854-5114 or @ReidKan.

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